Just when it seemed clear that the suitors for Josh Hamilton had been narrowed down, a new team has jumped in out of nowhere and completely upset things. The Seattle Mariners have reportedly swooped in and offered the top bat on the free agent market a three-year contract worth somewhere between $20 million to $25 million per season.
The 31-year-old Hamilton is said to be intrigued by playing for the Mariners, but his preference would be to return to the Texas Rangers. That said, the Rangers seem more focused on free agent pitcher Zack Greinke and are also attempting to swing a trade that would land them Arizona’s Justin Upton. Texas’ long wait to get serious with Hamilton could cost them the five-time All-Star.
We all know the story about Hamilton’s past drug abuse and his struggle to get clean, but he has also had problems staying healthy in his time with the Rangers. He played 156 games in 2008 (his first year in Arlington), but followed that up by playing 89 games in 2009, 133 in 2010 and 121 in 2011. In 2012 he managed to get into 148 games, but some feel he has been breaking down more often lately.
Hamilton is coming off a season in which he hit .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI. His OPS of .931 was outstanding, but his WAR of 3.3 was average. He also struck out a whopping 162 times against just 60 walks.
Hamilton has spent five years with the Rangers, and played in 647 games with the team. In that time he has belted 142 home runs, knocked in 506 RBI, boasts an OPS of .912, and has a .305 batting average. He has averaged 28 home runs, 101 RBI, 31 doubles and 154 hits per season while in Texas.
From what we’re hearing – despite those gaudy numbers – it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hamilton is elsewhere next season. Those close to the Rangers believe the team is simply ready to move on. Hamilton is a good guy who has a terrific story of redemption, but some aspects of his game have grated on those with the team.
Hamilton attempted to quit smokeless tobacco during the season (instead of in the offseason) and some thought it had an impact on his play. He also struggled with plate discipline, hence the huge number of strikeouts. On top of that, he came down with ocular keratits during the season, reportedly from ingesting too much caffeine.
Some believe he has just turned into a bit of a flake, but the Mariners obviously don’t see it that way. Seattle is in a post-Ichiro world and wants to grab a star who will bring fans to Safeco Field. Hamilton has the ability to be that guy. Don’t be surprised if he takes his talents to the Pacific Northwest.
The Rangers will likely have the final say in Hamilton’s free agency. I believe he’ll give them a chance to match whatever deal he gets. But don’t be surprised if they pass.